Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

Singapore's Citizen Inbox

On June 15, 2010 the Straits Times published an article cheekily titled 'G' mail for all govt e-mail. From the article:

" SINGAPORE residents will each get a personal online mailbox in two years' time to receive their mail from the Government and public agencies.

Mail such as tax statements, reminders to renew TV licences and bills for service and conservancy charges will be sent to this Internet mailbox.

I think that is a terrific idea for citizen services and a good example for clever marketing (I'll explain why). In the comments people lambast about stealing of identity, not-another-mailbox and hacking and viruses. I think they all get it wrong. Reading the article a little further we learn: " People can log into the mailbox using their SingPass ID as well as register online to get e-mail and SMS alerts for new mail.". So what exactly is happening here? My take:
  • Somebody did some serious thinking how to bring Citizen service to the next level. I like the idea and I hope the implementation is as bold as the idea itself. The OneInbox is the place where all Government - Citizen interaction takes place. Government interaction requires forms, so a classical eMail won't do. Government interaction is confidential so SMTP, POP etc. won't do. Regular users are overwhelmed when it comes to eMail security as encryption and signatures. The typical approach would be to build a G2C portal and let users interact with it. But "Portal and interactions" sounds complicated and scary to non technical people. So the brains behind the initiative call that Portal an Inbox. Everybody understands Inbox.
  • It won't be an eMail system - the sentence "register to get eMail and SMS alerts" gives it away. Why on earth would I want an eMail alert for an incoming eMail. So forget about sending a message to Auntie Joanne (that's what the other gMail is for). And that is OK.
  • It uses a well established Single SignOn (SingPass). I expect that in a future iteration SingPass will either use Singapore's Smart-ID chip or some biometrics (which is already stored in our ID card records), so it will be better than the arbitrary name/password of other online systems. Also it efficiently allows to click from you Inbox to the specialized applications of the respective ministries.
  • The plan seems to allow that government applications deposit just a notification to the inbox or ever surface their entire UI there depending on the readiness of the respective application. This nicely allows for incremental improvement and deeper and deeper integration. In IBM we call such an approach SOA.
  • The absence of normal eMail functions is a big security plus. No Viagra or body part size changing message can be used as an attack vector into that inbox. It is strictly public business
Of course questions need to be answered: Is SingPass secure enough, is privacy guaranteed (we don't have privacy laws here, so that actually might not be a topic) and is the user experience well balanced? For my part: I'm happy to gain a single stop for my government dealings.a

Posted by on 18 June 2010 | Comments (0) | categories: Business Singapore


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